Miners facing two big ones
When sophomore guard Kayleigh Correll says she is nervous about the upcoming week in Lady Miner basketball, do not panic.
Correll gets nervous before every game. More than a dozen opponents can attest to the fact that nerves don’t stop her from setting the table for Nevada Union victory.
Of course, Correll and company have every right to be on edge this week. With tonight’s Metro League contest against host St. Francis at 7 p.m., the Lady Miners begin a 50-hour period during which they will face the top two teams in the Sacramento area.
After tonight’s tilt, the Lady Miners hit the road to face Kennedy on Thursday.
“For us this week, it is going to be a huge challenge,” Correll said. “These teams have been incredibly gifted in the past. We are all really nervous right now. We have to pull together and not be intimidated.”
For NU coach Craig Strohm, the quandary is whether to make these back-to-back road games appear to be the most important thing since the addition of the three-point shot, or whether he should soft-peddle what should be two very intense tests on the road.
Strohm chooses some place in between the two extremes.
“If the week doesn’t go the way we want, all is not lost,” Strohm said. “We’ve got these two teams rotating back to us in February. And there are other teams in this league capable of beating the ‘three-headed dog.”
For those not familiar with Strohm-speak, the three-headed dog refers to the top-rated St. Francis, second-rated Kennedy, both of which won section titles last year, and Nevada Union, which enters the week ranked third in the Sacramento area.
Last year, NU went 0-4 against these two teams in the Lady Miners debut in the Metro League.
“We played them tough last year,” Strohm said. “We held both those teams in the fifties, but we didn’t have enough firepower. This year, I think we have a lot more offense.”
NU can come at opponents in a number of ways, running some out of the gym, burning others with pinpoint three-point shooting, wearing down others with an envious level of depth. Mae Valdes or Nicole Sheets may be considered the outside threat, but in reality half of the Lady Miners lineup are capable of connecting with the trey.
Likewise, a non-starter is just as capable of being the team’s top performer, such as guard Emma Kite, who has hit for double figures the past two games, or front court player Molly Heck, who has played a pivotal role in a number of games leading up to league play.
“With the way we are playing and the type of team we have, I really feel this year gives us a better opportunity to tip them over than we had last year,” Strohm said.
In an early league match-up in December, St. Francis defeated Kennedy 56-55 behind 21 points from point guard Mellissa King and 14 from forward Amy Flores.
Kennedy was paced in that game by sophomore Alisha Hicks, one of the premier back court players in the area who had 17 points and 13 rebounds in the game against St. Francis. The Cougars also have 6-foot-1 swing player Monique Smartt-Kidd, who was the Most Valuable Player of the Bill Cartwright Classic over the holidays.
“She is difficult to guard because she plays inside and outside, but we faced the same thing against Folsom’s Jen Hall,” Strohm said.
Though the Miners head into the week eager to test themselves against the area’s best, they can take comfort in the fact that – win or lose – they will get another shot against those teams at home, five days apart.
“I would much rather play away first, and home later,” Correll said. “The first time, you come out and do the best you can, but if you don’t do well, you have the home energy and the fans to come out and do a whole lot better the second time.”
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